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Mountaineers Ride Defense to Win Over OK State

Cody Nespor

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Dating back to 2017, West Virginia had lost to the Oklahoma State Cowboys on three straight contests.

In those three games, OK State averaged 86 points and shot 47.9% (81-169) from the floor and 44.6% (29-65) on three-pointers. Monday’s game featured no such offensive success.

West Virginia and Oklahoma State are two of the worst shooting teams in the Big 12 going by field goal percentage. The Cowboys are dead last with a 41.2% and WVU is seventh at 42.7%.

Defensively however both teams shine. West Virginia has the best opponent field goal percentage in the conference at 35.7% and Oklahoma State is fourth with 38.2%.

These struggling offenses matched up against stifling defenses led to a sloppy game that had more combined turnovers (49) than made field goals (33).

The Mountaineers made just enough shots to win the defensive slugfest 55-41 to break the losing streak against OSU and pick up their first conference win.

Head coach Bob Huggins said the team had some things to fix defensively after the loss at Kansas Saturday.

“I think they just missed some,” Huggins said. “We didn’t really change anything, we tried to fix some things from Saturday. We did a better job of containing people.”

West Virginia held a halftime lead against both Big 12 teams they have faced this season, however, they lost a six-point lead Saturday to lose 60-53. It was important Monday to not allow Oklahoma State to come back early in the second half after leading 28-19 at the half. Huggins thought the team did several things better to preserve their lead.

“I thought we did a pretty good job of staying in front of them, we didn’t turn them loose much and we rebounded,” Huggins said. “Pretty much it was one and done, which really helps. Not giving them extra shots.”

The Cowboys were missing their best perimeter shooter, senior Thomas Dziagwa, due to an illness. Dziagwa has shot 40.2% and 42.7% from three this season. Without him, the Cowboys went only 1-20 from three-point range, including an 0-17 start to the game.

West Virginia has only allowed opponents shoot above 40% from the floor three times this season. Twice this season WVU has held their opponents below 30% shooting. Despite this freshman Oscar Tshiebwe said WVU’s defense can still improve.

“I think we’re good but we’ve got to work to get better on stopping straight-line driving and we’ve got to work on help-side defense,” Tshiebwe said. “But I think we’re going to be great.”

In the end, Huggins did not think either team played particularly well.

“They shoot it, they really, really shoot it and they had a bad day, we had a bad day too,” Huggins said. “It was hard for me to watch at times. It was neither one of our better games.”

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Cody is currently a second-year graduate student at West Virginia University studying journalism. His graduate research focuses on the effects newspaper closures have on local communities. He graduated from Slippery Rock University in 2018 with a degree in digital media production. He was born and raised in Mercer, Pennsylvania.

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